There’s A Way To Get Around Bar Council’s Rules But It Will Cost An Extra Million
In January this year, the Pakistan Bar Council announced substitution of the conventional three-year program with a mandatory five-year LLB program. Furthermore, evening classes were scrapped and the number of students was limited to 100.
These steps were taken to improve the worsening situation of legal education in Pakistan and for regulating the law colleges and institutions.
At present, three different LLB programmes are being offered in different institutions of Pakistan. The traditional 3-year LL.B is opted by majority after BA. The 5-year LL.B (Hons) is less than a decade old and is offered to those who have passed their intermediate or A Levels. Few are aware of the LL.B (Hons) International Programme of the University of London which provides a UK degree while studying from the comfort of one’s home. The price, however, is way higher than the local ones. The degree roughly costs around Rs 1.5 million if completed without any academic mishap. The expenditures include University of London fees, tuition fees paid to the local school one is enrolled in, examination fees that are paid separately, and other miscellaneous expenditure.
On the other hand, a local 3-year LL.B degree costs around Rs 200,000 including the university fees, tuition fees, books etc. Evening classes give an individual the opportunity to pursue the degree after his or her day job.
A highly-placed government law officer told Pakistan Today on condition of anonymity that Pakistan Bar Council and Punjab Bar Council are suspicious of local degrees, adding that whenever a holder of foreign degree comes to them, their inferiority complex engulfs them and they give undue regard to the person. Most of these graduates of external programs know nothing about the laws, conventions and procedures of Pakistani law. It seems that the bar councils are hell bent to prohibit law education while what they really need to do is make the license procedure more rigorous, the source added.
The decision of PBC directly affects the poor and middle class segments of the society. They are prolonging the duration of the degree by two years, slashing the evening classes, limiting the number of students while leaving loopholes that allow the elite to circumvent all the rules and regulation with sheer disdain.
The institutes that offer the three-year LL.B Honors from University of London-International Programmes include Pakistan Law College, Roots College International, TILS, University College Lahore, School of International Law, and University College, Islamabad, to name a few.
Majid Bashir, a corporate lawyer and senior associate ABS & Co, when asked about this discrimination said, “The whole scheme is made without paying any heed to ground realities. The scheme is not feasible as many private law colleges affiliated with local universities can’t afford to provide faculty for 100 students alone. The ban on evening classes is unjust as one who wants to study must not be barred in any way. The regulations are an attempt to muffle affordable legal education to masses. We are transferring education to foreign lands by such daft steps. The way to maintain an overall check and balance is to make the bar examination tough. The criteria and procedure of getting a license must deter non serious elements from getting licenses to practice.”
The leading corporate law firms tend to hire foreign-qualified law graduates. The katcheri-corporate divide is stark as those who practise in katcheris or district courts rarely come in contact with their counterparts in the corporate sector. Both classes exist parallel to each other. The difference in earnings, lifestyles, backgrounds and clientele seems to widen with every passing day.
Mushtaq Mohal, Advocate Supreme Court and former member Punjab Bar Council said, “There should be no discrimination based on class, creed, economic status, social stature or any other basis. The decision to scrape off the local 3-year law program while allowing the same degree to be done from a foreign university’s external programme is invidious at best. Article 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan that guarantees equality of citizens before law, has been trampled by this decision.”
Pakistan Today contacted Advocate Abdul Fayyaz, member and Chairman Executive Committee, Pakistan Bar Council and asked about the matter. He said, “It is our resolve to improve the quality of legal education in the country. We have warned that after 2018 we won’t accept any lawyer who has not done a 5-year mandatory law program. We will make sure that our rules and regulations are followed.”
The state of legal education in Pakistan has been a cause of concern for all segments. It is the need of hour to devise a system of enrollment that can deter incompetent people from entering the profession. Furthermore, the bar councils, both national and local must make sure that licences be given after thorough scrutiny and bar examinations not be dealt with the farcical manner that they are presently conducted with.
An earlier version of this article appeared in Pakistan Today and it is being republished here with permission.
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